The Long Island PGA Championship figured to be historic this year. It was designed that way. In honor of the PGA of America’s centennial, local tournaments are being held at courses that have hosted the major PGA Championship. So with a bow to a legacy, local pros teed up at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, site of the 1919 PGA.
It also turned out to be a landmark in the career of Anthony Aruta, assistant pro at North Shore Country Club. “Basically, it’s my first major win in the section. I’ve won a bunch of assistants’ events and I’ve had some good finishes in some of the bigger events, but this is my first win,” said the man who scored a 1-up victory over Josh Rackley of Tam O’Shanter Thursday in the final match.
“It’s just nice to get my name on the trophy, along with a lot of other big names,” Aruta said after having fallen behind on the 16th hole, then winning Nos. 17 and 18 with pars.
Winning around here always has been tough and it is getting tougher. Rackley just moved to Long Island after having been 2015 Player of the Year in the Philadelphia PGA Section (in the second round this week, Rackley defeated Mark Brown, his new boss at Tam O’Shanter).
Aruta, 35, still is really in his first stage as a competitive golfer. The Staten Island native neither knew nor cared about the sport until relatives invited him to play when he was a high school senior. “Then I went full boat with it. I got addicted to it. I wasn’t going to settle for mediocre,” he said.
Engineers stood up to the competition. Neither player made a birdie in the final match, which was a tribute to extremely fast greens and a layout as challenging as it was nearly a century ago. “It was phenomenal,” the champion said. “You couldn’t ask for it to be in any better shape, especially for this time of year. It was as good as you’d get in prime season.”
Many Long Island pros will be in local U.S. Open qualifiers Tuesday and Wednesday at Old Westbury and Bethpage Red, respectively.
Jeter pranks an ace?
New golf aficionado Derek Jeter, who has been studying under major teaching pro David Leadbetter since his retirement from the Yankees, hinted on Late Night with Seth Myers this week that the recent video showing a big celebration over his apparent hole-in-one might have been a put-on. The clip, from the Derek Jeter Celebrity Golf Classic in Las Vegas, did not show the ball go in the cup. It pictured only the former shortstop and buddies shouting and high-fiving.
Jeter sheepishly told Myers, “I’m going through a swing change.”
USGA’s Play9 Day
The U.S. Golf Association has declared Monday Play9 Day, an initiative to remind golfers that a nine-hole round is just fine, and better than 18 in some cases. Officials pointed out that playing nine is certainly more time-friendly and probably less daunting for beginners. They added that golfers can officially submit nine-hole rounds for handicap calculations.
Right now, the program is mostly motivational and symbolic. But it would be great if courses throughout the country formally offered special nine-hole rates and other incentives. In any case, the USGA announced that the ninth of every month through October will be a Play9 Day.
The Boys & Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich will have its outing May 16 at Pine Hollow Country Club, East Norwich. Call (516) 922-0300 . . . New Beginnings Community Center in Medford will honor Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco during its outing May 20 at Rock Hill Golf & Country Club, Manorville. Visit nbli.org . . . The COPE Foundation, a grief support foundation for parents and families living with the loss of a child, will honor Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs at its outing May 23 at the Muttontown Club, East Norwich. Visit copefoundation.org.